Here we have Spring training. The Season of Lent is seen by many as our Spring training. Whether one is a rookie, or a veteran you end up in Spring training, that is if you want to keep your job. Lent, our Spring training is not about keeping one's job, but seeing how one grows into one's calling, one's vocation. Baseball fundamentals are about hitting, fielding, and catching. Lent introduces us to the triple play of prayer, fasting, and works of charity. There will be time when the baseball player will not return to Spring training, we will never be able to avoid the training process of Lent. Spring training is the preparation necessary for a successful baseball season. Lent is essential for us to have "life, and have it to the fullest." The fullness of life however, will come to us through our successes, through our looking good. On the contrary, growth seems to take only through loss, some death, some failure, some great pain. This is why we must return, again, and again, to and ever deepening understanding of The Paschal Mystery. The mystery we have been baptized into, but spend our whole lifetime coming to grips with what it means for us as we life our earthly existence. The Latin word for earth is "hummus," so our earthly existence, is our human existence. Not just any human existence. For we are spiritual beings immersed in this human, fleshy, existence. Lent then, is a process by which we are lead into an ever fuller understanding of who we are, who we have been called to be, and who does the calling.
"We are born human and we spend our whole lifetime coming to understand what, human, means." This is, as you may well know by now, one of my favorite quotations from Metz's classic "Poverty of Spirit." I have come to a slow understanding that it is in and the journey through Lent, and the subsequent celebration of The Paschal (Easter) Mystery that the mystery lying deep within is revealed. This revelation, for me, has not been accompanied with the appearance of angels, warm fuzzy feelings, wonder-full emotional experience, the very opposite has been the case. This journey is a trudge, into uncertainty. "We journey to Him we do not know, by a path we do not know," has been a source of great encouragement on the trudge. Merton's prayer, "God I have no idea where I am going..." (Google for the rest), is a constant source consolation and courage. It seems that the fuller growth has to be proceeded by an emptying out. This required "emptying out" has been modeled for us by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He emptied Himself of His divinity so as to be enfleshed in our unredeemed humanity. We are asked to surrender our humanity, and a broken one at that, so as to be filled with the Divine life, The Fullness of life. What a swap? As usual God comes out at the short end of the exchange. Jesus surrendered everything so as to take on our nothingness. We are asked to surrender our nothingness so as to be transfigured and transformed into the very presence of God. What is required of us is that we be willing to allow this miracle of grace to happen. If we are not willing, all we have to do is pray that we become willing to be willing. This is so simple that it appears to be profound!!! The workings of grace will always take place in such a way that we have no idea of what is happening, or when it happens. It is none of our business. All we have to do is allow it to happen. Will our egos allow that to happen? Of course not. The ego wants to know what is happening, how it happens, how LONG it is going to take. The ego wants to confine this miracle of birthing to a reality that can be measured, quantified. This is NOT going to happen. We get what we need, when we need it, and at a time that is best for us. It is The Wisdom of God, The Caring Mother, who directs all things in accord with the universal plan of The Creator. A plan that has been hidden, but has also been revealed. Our lives, each one is an essential play, an essential part in this great revealing. This is the inherent dignity that lies within and revealed through healthy spiritual living. Of ourselves, we are incapable of healthy spiritual living, this gift is bestowed on those who are prepared to pay the price. We are reminded, again and again, each and every year prayer, fasting, and works of charity take us out of our narrow, ego driven world into the broad, and so wonder-full creation. A creation we have been called to be co-creators of, by The Creator-God. If we are to be creative creators with The Real Creator God, the false gods of our creation must be destroyed. These gods of our ego creation do NOT die easily, so we have been given the Lenten triple play.
"We fast to unite ourselves with the poor-to taste their empty lives, to weep over their sad and hungry children, to feel their helplessness. By fasting and giving alms, by sharing our bread and sheltering the oppressed, we stop "turning our backs on our own." Fasting then unites us with our true family. We the orphan find our way home. Home is God's family of the entire human race where the MAJORITY GO TO BED HUNGRY. Along this way the poor, the hungry and the oppressed lift a yoke from our back. We have been weighed down with the yoke of pride, self-assurance, security and excessive needs. We have been hounded by diets and wasted foods and yet, we are never satisfied. We carry the yoke of never of always wanting more and needing more....Fasting, by uniting us in the family of the poor teaches us the true value of home life. To be united with the poor is far superior to the most advanced education and certainly to the most elegant entertainment. Trough fasting the poor lift these yokes of false values off our shoulders...As the poor share with us their sorrow…the poor lead us home mysteriously enough to Jesus. In the desire of Jesus, a new love is born, and love always unites and begets new life. "Biblical Meditation Foe Lent" by Carroll Stuhlmueller. These are challenging words. Gospel spirituality cuts right to the core of things. That is why we must again and again return to the scriptures of Lent so as to reclaim our original dignity. That dignity as beloved daughter/son may be and is lost to our sight. But NOT from the sight of our Gracious Beloved Prodigal Father. We are invited to "Come back to Me with all your heart...do not let fear draw us apart...we will live DEEPLY our new life" A selfish, self serving fear, the opposite of faith, can and does keep us from an ever new, and ever evolving relationship with our Beloved. We need lent to challenge us to be honest. To face up to the times where we have given into the temptation to follow, and worship at altars of false gods. The creation of our selfish, and self-centered egos are confronted with The Truth revealed in the scriptures. We have so many false gods that we could not confront them all just in one Lent. So we journey again, and again, not alone, never alone into our deserts. We journey to meet our Desert Shepherd who awaits. He awaits us to guide, guard, nourish, and strengthen us as we journey WITH Him to the dark valleys.